That Moment Again
That Moment Again
Second Male Voice
Female voice is missing. Second male voice thinks he drove her away. He imagines that he sees her again.
First verse
It's good to see you standing here again
The words I've held have haunted me
held me down
I know you needed to leave me
move on
I know I couldn't hold you here
keep you back
We both knew it could never last
stay the same
Some days, it's hard to forget
The days I could have had
in your arms
The feelings I might have
had, again
All those nights together
with you
Bridge
But those days at the shore
For a spot of fleeting time
I held you still in my arms
It seemed like it would never end
That's the time it all felt right
This is when you come to me
You reach for me across the sand
 
Chorus
I see you
in the shallows
barefoot skipping
across the water
the sun is sinking
on your shoulder
again
As you brush back
hair from your eyes
in the red flare
I see you smile
again
Smile for me  Again
Smile for me  Again
Bring that moment  Back
Again
Final Verse
How long has it been
Since things were half right
Since I saw you last
I forgot how it feels
to feel almost good
to feel without hurt
Those days at the beach
Our toes in the sand
Your laughs in the clouds
It's all I can do
to keep moving through days
and stay numb inside
Bridge
But those days at the shore
For a spot of fleeting time
I held you still in my arms
It seemed like it would never end
That's the time it all felt right
This is when you come to me
You reach for me across the sand
 
Chorus
I see you
in the shallows
barefoot skipping
across the water
the sun is sinking
on your shoulder
again
As you brush back
hair from your eyes
in the red flare
I see you smile
again
Smile for me  Again
Smile for me  Again
Bring that moment  Back
Again
Chapter 14
March 21, 2017

     Yesterday, when I came into my office, there were seven or eight boxes stacked here and there, scattered throughout my office, whenever there was an empty space, a void waiting for matter. On top of one of the boxes, a handwritten note, scotch-taped into place: “These are my important papers. For you to keep or throw away. It will be your decision. Do with them what you will. I don’t blame you. Charles.”

     I am not sure how he got access to my office. He must have convinced some friend with the campus security to let him in. That friend probably thought, since he was putting stuff in, not taking stuff away, it must be okay. And I’m sure Charles gave the campus cop a good story. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t have taken all of it with him or thrown it away or shredded it. If he had asked, I could have had a workstudy student shred it all. But, now, it was there, a burden. I would have to decide what to do with it. I thought about having some students take it to the nearest dumpster, but I had this fear, guilt for an action I had not yet taken, like history was watching, like I would be the man who used Van Gogh paintings for target practice.

     What in the hell did he think I would want his papers? Thirty-eight years of papers? I felt like Charles had left a loaded gun in my office and disappeared into the night. What was I supposed to do with this loaded gun?

     And what did he mean by “I don’t blame you.” This is like saying, “I do actually blame you, but I am going to act like I am taking the high road and forgive you, but you know what you did.” How did he imagine I would react to that? Did he think I would call him up and say, “Thanks Charles, for not blaming me, even though I didn’t do anything wrong.” I warned him to be careful. I told him to back off. I told him to follow the proper channels. I told him it would get out of hand. I did what I could. So, is he blaming me because he didn’t follow my advice and things turned out badly?

     Maybe, I'm being too hard on him. Maybe, he felt there were valuable documents in the boxes. Maybe, he didn’t know what to do. Now, in this climate, none of us seem to know what to do about anything. The landscape is shifting. The ground is moving under our feet. Everyone—even the most ill informed—feels it. This used to be a good place to work. Now, it’s all tension. Now, something is shifting. Some beast has been unleashed, sprung from deep in the earth. It may have been there all the time, waiting. I just didn’t see it. Now, I feel like I am sweating it out of my pores. It feels like it is coming out of me.

     There I was, trying to balance myself, about 8:00 am, standing in the middle of my office, unable even to get to my desk because he decided to bequeath me his papers like they were the lost manuscripts of Earnest Hemingway, like I would be thankful. There I stood, for a good long while. There, trying to comprehend it all, I kept muttering to myself, “What the fuck?” I hope no one saw this. I hope no student walked by and peered into my office. The student—some random student—probably wouldn’t even have recognized me. The student would have probably assumed this was some wandering lunatic who stumbled into my office.

     But no one seemed to be around, until Lincoln walked in. I am glad it was he who appeared, who shook me back to awareness. He heard me say “What the . . .” and stop. He finished with “fuck,” question mark and all.

     We rounded up a couple of grad students, GAs, and had them move the boxes back into Charles’s office, out of the way. Into his old office, the one he had just vacated. It was totally empty. No books. No pictures on the wall. Just some trash scattered across the floor like some homeless person had been sleeping there. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a few Sterno cans and some empty cans of Beanie-Weenies. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Charles had been sleeping there.

     Once we moved the boxes, I went back to my office and tried to concentrate on answering a few emails. Lincoln said he would spend some time looking through the boxes, maybe over spring break, next week, and get a rough sense of what was there—decide what should be saved, what we should spend time digging through, what we should take to the university archives, if anything. Maybe, we will decide to end it all, make a few trips to the nearest dumpster, be done with it. Even if history is watching. I’ll be dead before I am judged.

     Then, later in the day, they led him off campus—the other guy—unceremoniously, without even a box of memories. Some campus police, including the Director of Campus Security, but no city police. They showed him the way to his car. They waited outside his class until most of the students had left. Before he could even finish talking to the last student or two, gather his books and papers, they walked in, told him his contract with the university had been terminated, told him they would escort him to his car, as if they were extending a courtesy. He wasn’t even allowed to clear out his office. There they went, the entire phalanx—the Director of Campus Security, two uniformed campus police, and a fifty-something full professor from the Department of Political Science—weaving their way through crowded halls, the heads of students turning, their wake generating urban myths on the spot, the collective—the student mob—metamorphosing awe and confusion into saga and certainty as an entirely new worldview emerged—all this, in a few moments.

     I didn’t witness it. I heard about it later. After urban myths had already hardened into rock. Mostly, from students in my class, friends of friends of the students who had been there, next to him, when it all crashed around him, as if this were a tale told generation after generation.

     I am sure you saw it on the local news. The press arrived before the poor sap was off campus, video for the evening news, photos for the morning newspaper. The provost said nothing, except for the standard routine statement: “I cannot comment on a personnel issue.” He might as well have said, “I finally have my scapegoat.”

     Even before students had gotten to me, before I knew anything about the events of the day, Barnes showed up in my office, unannounced, entering without knocking, before I had even heard a whisper. He looked like he had just discovered an awful truth, a great wrong, a wrong I had perpetrated, like he had just discovered I done the unforgivable. Without any explanation, he began to scream at me, “What have you done? What have you done?”

     After he screamed at me a few times, wailing like a banshee, I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. I might have shrugged my shoulders before that, as if to punctuate his screams. Maybe he thought I was presenting a mock innocence. I wasn’t. I just hadn’t heard anything yet.

     “You are behind this. You and your goon squad. You and Elliott and that student. I know it. You will pay for this.”

     “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I repeated. I suppose I should have been upset, angry, returning his screams with my own, but there had been too much chaos for too long. I was spent, especially after having to deal with the boxes of the Elliott archives. I simply didn’t care. He kept yelling. I just looked at him. My face was without expression, at least, initially. At some point, I felt a slight smile. That made him even more angry. I started to feel a sense of happiness, or contentment, peace, resignation. Who knows what. I had not felt like that for a long time. It passed in a moment, but it was enough to shape my reaction to Barnes.

     “You know. You know, you lying son of a bitch. This will not stand. This will not stand. I am telling you, this will not stand.”

He had hit that point where he didn’t know what else to say, without reaching a state of emotional satisfaction. Lost for words, he was reduced to staring at me, face red, nostrils flaring, for another minute or so, mute, impotent, as if he were waiting for something to happen. I slowly stood up and faced him.

     “Get the fuck out of my office.” This, I said softly. With the smallest of smiles. A smirk. Maybe, a smirk. Certainly, no more than a smirk. He probably interpreted the smirk as an admission of guilt.

     I don’t usually curse in the office. . . . Well, you are right. Maybe I do. But not usually at someone, maybe as part of an informal chat, only in jest, only in the presence of a good friend, never with another administrator, never in anger. In the office, my anger is usually controlled. I said it—this command—almost as if I were passing a secret.

     He turned and stomped out. I’m sure it didn’t end the way he had imagined. It seems like I’ve been having a lot of meetings like this. We’ve all been having meetings like this. Anger and accusations but no resolution. He probably hoped I would take a swing at him, then he would be justified in swinging back. Fist impacting flesh, a little blood, this would have felt better, at least in the moment.

     I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.

     When I eventually heard something about Cooper, maybe three or four hours after the Barnes’ visit, I realized he thought I was to blame, though I couldn’t imagine why he would assume I was part of it. Lisa asked me about it. She said she had heard that I was involved in it. That was the word around campus. Apparently, some person or some group of persons thought I had something to do with bringing forth some information, some documents, some witnesses, lies or whatever, about the guy. Surely, now that all the information is out, no one would think the guy could have possibly been set up, or that he shouldn’t be going to jail.

     The odd thing is I hardly know Cooper. I know who is, but I don’t really know him. We have maybe been in a handful of meetings together over my twelve years here. I wouldn’t even know how to construct a lie that would stick, that would have enough details to be held and passed, even if I wanted to, and why would I want to? I didn’t even know where he did his graduate work, if he were married, had kids, if students liked him, if he had a hobby. I knew nothing about him.

     When I told Lisa that I didn’t even know what she was talking about, I don’t think she believed me, but she told me what she knew, what she had heard from some students who were in the hall when Cooper was escorted out. I heard more later, from students. Who had heard it from someone else.

     She had probably also heard that Barnes threw a fit in my office. She would have assumed that there was something behind it. I must have sounded as feckless as the provost when he said it was a personnel issue. I was being sucked in, I was already part of some story, and I seemed to be the person on campus who knew nothing, not even the wildfire rumors.

     I began to wonder if I needed to defend myself, but how? Maybe I needed to start drifting across campus, asking all my friends, all the people I knew, if they had heard anything about what led to the arrest. Maybe then, I would become part of the mob, someone seeking truth, passing on rumors. I would seem to be on the periphery, not in the center. But I’m not sure I really cared—care—that much. Cooper was fired, led off campus. Later, he was arrested. So what? What does it have to do with me? Why would anyone assume this mess had anything to do with me? There seemed to be no logic to any of it.

     I didn’t see anything in emails. On this campus, the simplest of events—someone cuts down a tree, someone misplaces a lunch pail, someone finds car keys in the parking lot—anything, any event, generates dozens of emails. Nothing about this.

     A few faculty who witnessed some portion of the arrest drifted from office to office and asked, “Did you hear about Robert Cooper? The prof in Poly Sci? They escorted him off campus.” They were not delivering information. They were searching for an explanation and found none. When I had nothing to add to the rumor mill, they should have thought, “He doesn’t know anything.” They should have, but they didn’t—wouldn’t. I am sure they thought, What is he not telling me? I should have made something up, just a little something, anything to take the stink off me.

     I hear that there were some tweets, all by students, about the event, most of them under #professorperv and #drmolester. I don’t know if the students knew something or they assumed something. One student posted a photo of Cooper's forced march off campus on Twitter. The Dean of Students told him to take it down, or that’s what I heard this morning. This shows you how little the administration understands social media. The Dean of Students, bless his heart, thought he could erase something from Twitter that had probably already been re-tweeted a few hundred times.

     The story on the evening news, did you see it? . . . No. It had video of Cooper being escorted off campus. Then, later, a few days later, there was video of him being arrested by the city police and led from his house in handcuffs. They cited his offense as allegedly being involved with a minor and allegedly downloading child pornography. Allegedly, as if anyone thought there was a chance he didn’t do it all.

     In the morning newspaper, I am sure you saw it, that photo of Cooper, above the fold on the first page of Section B, the local news section. The reporter had collected strings of quotes from students and professors, the Office of Communications, and one woman who worked in the cafeteria. Students said Cooper was a good teacher, “he knew his stuff,” he was funny. They had no idea about his dark side. Colleagues said he was dedicated. Faint praise. They didn’t want to be caught up in the scandal. The Office of Communication said, “We can’t commen.” The cafeteria lady said he was innocent. “Of what?” asked the reporter. “I don’t know,” she said. “Whatever they said he did.” Then she added that he liked meatloaf.

     It has been chaos. We have crossed over.

     After all this, I was attacked on my way home.

     I was in my office late. I was driving home, the usual route. I was making that left hand turn onto Green Street to cross the river. As I was stopped at the light, the homeless guy who is always there, the one with his cardboard sign, words scribbled with an ball point pen, impossible to read, a shopping card with all his possessions to his side. He always there. Sometimes, I give him money, but not always. Waiting for the light, I was in a daze. He started to bang on my window, screaming at me, “I need another dollar! Why won’t you help me? I only need another dollar?” I didn’t have any cash. I almost never carry cash anymore. I shrugged at him, mouthed, hoping he could read lips, “I’m sorry. No cash.” When the light turned, I slowly began to drive off. I didn’t want to hurt him. I went slowly, very slowly. He walked along with my car, screaming, banging his fist on my window. I accelerated. As I began to pull away, he threw his sign at me. It fluttered in the air and fell—not far from where he now stood. The message, the gesture, lost. I had nothing. There was nothing I could do.